Emmy McCarthy had a blast on a recent trip to Space Expo with her four-year-old space enthusiast. Read on to find out more about this great family day out, just a short distance from Amsterdam.

A Dutch Space Experience 

Space, the final frontier…in the Netherlands?

I have a space crazy kiddo. He loves rockets and astronauts and aliens. We close each day by telling each other that we love you to the moon and the stars and then back again, in a rocket ship.

Over the summer, I decided to feed his imagination the best way I know how: by making things bigger and more realistic.

After a tip from the Amsterdam Mamas Facebook group, I decided to plan a day trip to Space Expo, Europe’s first permanent space exhibition which is located in Noordewijk.

Getting There

The journey there was very easy by public transport. From Amsterdam we caught a train, a short bus ride along the sea front and were dropped right outside the Space Expo building. There is ample parking if you are arriving by car.

You can be in no doubt that you have arrived at Space Expo as there are giant space artifacts in the grounds. From the outside, it looks like a small hangar or warehouse. Not very inspiring. I was beginning to wonder if I had made a mistake.

We collected our tickets and picked up a free children’s tour guide (the one for younger children in only available in Dutch, the older one is available in more languages).  Then we pulled open the door and headed into…

The galaxy!

The Museum

A line of illuminated star walls guided us into the main exhibition space and it was amazing! We didn’t know where to start but, helpfully, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers was (virtually) on hand to guide us in. You follow a winding path through André’s story of space, full of photos and history. We got to see his space suit and take a photo of ourselves as astronauts.

As we turned the corner we were amazed to see a countdown timer in front of the base of a rocket ship. 5…4…3…2…1… The rocket began to shake, smoke began to pour from the boosters, and the ground trembled as we sat through a virtual take off. This experience is repeated regularly throughout the day and the countdown timer will let you know how long until the next one.

From the launch pad, my little astronaut in training raced towards the section of international space station in the middle of the hall.  We spent quite some time playing at being astronauts in space, pulling levers and exploring.  Then it was back outside to learn about satellites, gravity and space exploration through the ages. My son particularly enjoyed launching a rocket to the ceiling!

In the end, we were at Space Expo for several hours just exploring and revisiting our favourite parts, which, as any parent of a four year old will know, means that our day out was a huge hit!

Our tips for visiting Space Expo:

  • There is a café serving snacks and drinks, but we took a picnic and sat on the benches outside in the sunshine.
  • Make sure you have checked 9292.nl for the train and bus times. There are two buses and one drops you a short walk away, instead of outside. Nice in the sun, not so much fun in the rain.
  • Your Museumkaart is valid at SpaceExpo. Check the website for current ticket prices.
  • Don’t forget to check the website during holiday periods as there are often special activities going on.

photo credit: Flickr

Emmy Coffey McCarthy

Emmy McCarthy was the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.